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Is the Government Controlled By The Elite?

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Public policy is simply an attempt by the government to address a public issue.  How these issues are made aware to the government are up for debate.  Many people feel that the political world is made up of cooperation’s buying politicians off or that the policy decisions are not the result of what most of the voters want; this coming from the elitist model.  To contrast public choice model looks to the motivations of individuals. They are both concepts of who influences policy, although they differ greatly. Public policy goals are implemented though the public choice model more so than an elitist model.    On the surface it is easy to assume that the elitist model is prevalent. If examined closely one can see how the public choice theory makes more sense in reference to how policy is implemented.

According to Leighninger and Popple ( 2008) in the public choice perspective the vast variety of  political participants such as voters, candidates, legislators, interest groups, parties, campaigners and bureaucracies all are seeking to their own goals of interest. Sometimes these policies conflict or connect with one another. They go on to explain that the interests of politicians and bureaucrats are to win elections however, the interests of voters and interest groups are to know what policies affect them and their lives. This seems to create an intricate dance at play. In order for the politicians and bureaucrats to gain their rewards is to win the support of the voters and interest groups for example. Policy silences are viewed as being created from certain policy ideas not gaining popularity or support from voters, legislators and other participants. ( Fiornia, Johnson, Peterson & Mayer, 2009) Policy silences are problems for a certain society or population that are not being met.

Leighninger and Popple (2008) explain, that the elitist model to be the opposite. Proponents of this view believe that the goals of policy are at the hands of a small group of people. These people are represented as the wealthy citizens of the nation,corporations, and the military. They view a kind of pyramid of power rather than the web of competing groups debating policy. ( Leighninger & Popple, 2008) This is a bleak view of society being in a dictatorship and a totalitarian environment. The view is that policy silences are created from an imbalance of power. (Fiornia et al., 2009)

It only seems as if the elite are in power however. There is a lack in citizen participation, and those that mostly do participate, fit into certain stereotypical demographics.  (Fiornia et al., 2009) These are age, income, education and race. According to Fiornai et al.,(2009) the middle to upper middle aged vote at a higher percentage than their younger age groups.  More educated, higher income people also vote more than the less educated or low income groups. White males vote more, than other ethnicity, although this is changing more than the rest. (Fiornia et al., 2009) This sounds like the stereotyped elite group, but they are the ones who are participating the most.  Unfortunately, most people are not active in their government.  With their busy lives most people, especially the low income, and low educated are just trying to survive, and they may not know how to get involved or may not have the energy or resources to do it. They do not have the motivation or self interest to do it. Many may have the resources but have jobs and children and may be simply overwhelmed with their lives as it is. Whatever the case, citizen participation is the cause for the policies that are in place.  It is under the assumption of many government officials that the policies exist because the people want them that way.  I can only dream  where all the people became more active. Imagine the changes that could be implemented then, if more people were even to get involved in their local government.

There are also reasons that reinforce people to vote. This fits in line with public choice theory where people behave according to the interests or motivations that they may have. These rewards include; being rewarded for participating. Some events provide free food or simply give away tee shirts. If there is a close race, people tend to participate more. If one thinks that the person they are interested in has a good chance then that can motivate them, or if they think they will have no chance then that could deter them.  Another factor is if one perceives there are significant differences in the candidates, then more likely to vote. If people think “Those politicians are all the same.” They may not see much point in participating. And the politician having knowledge of the issues that are important to the voting participants is a factor in if they will participate or not. This clearly shows that motivation plays a role in participation and policy decisions. (Fiornia et al., 2009)

It is this participation though, that makes our system thrive and drive. People who are regular voters, participants in the parties, legislators, campaigners, interest groups, and advocates; all act on their self interest. This self interest does not necessarily mean a selfish one. It could be the self interest of a group or person to fight for the betterment of others such as Greenpeace, Disabled American Veterans or The American Civil Liberties Union. People advocate for what they feel is best form their perspective. In our capitalist country it seems as if public choice theory fits the description on who motivates policy. Perhaps if one looks at policy as motivated by the self interest of different people then that may give one more perspective on why things are. If one looks at government though the lens of the public choice theory one may imagine what its like to “wear someone else’s shoes.” One may not look at politicians as superheroes or villains and look at things through the strategy of motivation.

By Lydia Long 

Photo Credit

http://images.sodahead.com/profiles/0/0/2/6/4/1/5/8/7/Tea-Baggers-52362488257.png

Fiornia, Morris P., Paul E. Peterson, Bertram Johnson, and William G. Mayer. America's New Democracy. 5th ed. New York: Person Education Inc, 2009. 153-63. Print.

Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2008). The Policy Based Profession (4th ed., pp. 122-123). Boston: Person Education Inc.

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The Ongoing Fight for Marriage Equality; Looking Back on Amendment One

It has been one year since Amendment One passed here in North Carolina . The marriage amendment was a hot topic around the state bringing a much needed debate at the same time a need for more awareness for the community on LGBTQ issues. Many people have made assumptions and judgments on this group of people which has been a barrier  for  expanding marriage equality.  Even though the amendment passed, this has brought marriage equality into the political conversation.  Marriage equality is going to come and one by one the attention of the nation has been focused on expanding marriage equality for all. Over the past year, community organizations such as Equality NC,  have empowered the community with their outreach and awareness efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

With our hetero-privilege, our whole society is set up to oppress the LGBTQ community.  This country looks to the nuclear family model and often forgets that families do not fit a mold.  My close friends, myself included have actively participated in advocating for marriage equality.  The LGBTQ people I have connected though working to advocate for marriage equality are amazing.   For people to maintain warmth, compassion and understanding to society  when  many people discriminate against them, shows a lot of  character. This community swells with the love of peace, understanding, unity and respect for people; even as I said before, in the face of unsatisfactory behavior. Since I have started my advocacy, I fell more of a sense of social justice than I did before. I always was a supporter for LGBTQ rights, and the rights of anyone. But spending some time working with this community and the conversations that I had with the community made me feel that their issues were closer to home in a way. The urgency of justice was more aware to me.

On May 8th,  Equality NC commemorated the one-year anniversary of the passage of Amendment One. They asked friends, allies and everyone to stand with them at the North Carolina General Assembly at their “STAND AS ONE” event, and to share their stories on how the passage of this amendment has affected them. Participants  of the event joined hands and circled the assembly as they “stood as one” and speakers such as State Senator Mike Woodard and openly-gay State Representative Marcus Brandon fired up the crowd in speaking about the fight for Equality in North Carolina.

As part of their on-going efforts Equality NC  has partnered with GIVE OUT DAY; an indicative to engage  ”hundreds of organizations and mobilize thousands of people on a single day across the country to give in support of the LGBT community”.  Interested donors can set up their own fundraising page to encourage  family and friends to participate as well. And in order to spread awareness Equality NC also encourages all people from North Carolina families with LGBTQ members to share their stories on their  KNOW + LOVE channel. Many times, it is these personal stories that can bring about the greatest change.

photo credit: equalitync.org

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ENC | The Importance of Family | #equalityaction

http://youtu.be/HE-Z6NEbypY

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The Uncharitable World of Policy

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One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current government wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that no longer give business incentives for donating to them. If the government does not want to fund these services then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive, however if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people that are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, (Pallotta, 2008) everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that targets vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world. First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other business instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Pallotta, 2008)  Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non profit sector. Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly through not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit business, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However in the nonprofit sector these sort of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits. For example Dan states, if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported.  (Pallotta, 2008)  However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly by being been seen as a drain in the community rather than a value.

In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable. But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination for vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. (Pallotta, 2008)As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members in the community that are struggling is unfavorable?

by  Lydia Long Staff Writer for Socialworkhelper.com

Pallotta, D. (2008). Uncharitable. Lebanon, NH: Tufts University Press

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Family and Maternal Leave Around the World; How Does the US Measure Up?

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Women have been dominating in the workforce; because having a one family income is no longer enough; and because women enjoy and want to have careers as well. This created a need for changes in policy such as assistance with child care, reproduction and family leave. Women, especially those women who become pregnant have to take substantial time off work, in recovery time, and doctor visits. Because day care is very expensive many women cannot afford to work full time, keeping many single women and even women with families at the poverty level. In addition to that women often have the burden of the “second shift”, taking on many of the domestic duties at home as well.

Some of the policy changes around the world that came as a result of this are parental leave and preschool provisions for children until the age of six. Germany and France were two of the first countries to get maternity leave. Many countries, 128, provide paid and job protected child birth leave.(Henderson, 144) The way the country or state gives this benefit varies from place to place; some places provide longer times than others for example. The United States however is unpaid for most. Eighty eight countries provide allowances for families, to help with raising them. There was only one country, the United States that provided no form for family allowances. (Henderson, 149) According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the United States is the single least generous country in relation to the treatment of families. It is sad that the US and Australia are the only two countries that offer no federally mandated paid leave for parents. This is a huge barrier for families and single people rising children. (Henderson, 151) France is  one of the countries that have the most benefits for women; such as increased maternity leave for increased children, additional money for having more children.; For example; a child rearing benefit if they have more than two children. (Henderson, 155)

The way the state or country attacks these problems tells you a little bit about how they value the situation. Out of all the countries studied, the United States lagged behind all others in the support and balance they give to families (Henderson, 157) Another issue, daycare, is proved by many countries such as Germany as a public service. While many of the OECD countries provide this daycare regardless of income, the US only provides assistance for the abused and low income. Because of the benefits of Sweden and France, women are able to balance family and work. Where as in the US, there are a large number of children at the poverty level. (Henderson, 169) Because of the lack of assistance in the United States, many women in single and working class families cannot afford to have day care, unless there is some subsidized program they can participate in. Many women are forced to limit the time they work until their children begin school age. (Conway, 175) Public awareness on this issue needs to be advocated for.  (Conway 189) All people should write their representatives on this matter, go in groups to speak to legislators, and set up community awareness events in their community.

I think the United States could learn from many of the policies and practices of countries like Sweden and France. This would give us the same opportunity to work full time and balance the lifestyles that we have to adopt in our society. I think these countries as well as the other countries in the OECD have done a far better job to address the gender differences of women and men. As far as the United States, however, I feel that they have not, and they have let us down. Again it is sad that the people do not realize that by addressing these issues for women then they would be helping everyone.

 Staff Writer for Socialworkhelper.com  Lydia Long

 

 Photo credit:
http://buleriaboutique.com/modules/blockskitterslideshow/slides/634499916879843750_united-colors-of-benetton-women.jpg

Conway, M. (2004). Women and Public Policy: A Revolution in Progress (3rd ed., pp. 175-189). N.p.: CQ Press

Henderson, S., & Jeydel, A. (2009). Women in Politics in a Global World (2nd ed., pp. 144-169). N.p.: Oxford University Press’ Higher.

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Making Cents of Being Poor, Pt 2 

Recently, I posted about The University of North Carolina’s at Greensboro’s Poverty Simulation that was held on March 27th as part of their social justice week, a celebration for social work month.  The simulation was to provide students and other members of the community a glimpse of what the poverty experience might be like for them.  This simulation  is an interactive experiential guided exercise that  walks participants into an alternate universe of second class living that some people do not experience.

The day began at 9am on the chilly March day. Students first met in the gym for their training of the simulation which lasted until about 11am. The simulation ran from 12 until 4 which closed with participants and volunteers processing their reactions to the simulation and sharing what they have learned.

The events of the day consisted of participants playing roles of families, single people , some jobless, homeless, sick all trying to get their needs met. Below are some of the highlights of the day.

The “police” taking a “homeless” person to jail for loitering

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Students learn the experience of long lines at the Department of Social Services

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 ”Mental health professional” telling “prospective clients” that they must have insurance to receive assistance.

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Another homeless person whom after he could not find any place to stay  is arrested for sleeping in the streets.

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The Housing Authority checking for proper documentation before providing services.

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PROTEST!!  Students protesting  healthcare being cut

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 DSS social worker assisting clients on receiving services.

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Students experience frustration and laughter as they navigate through the simulation.

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This simulation is held annually during social work month at UNCG. It was a rewarding experience and I encourage any locals to participate in the following years. This experience is one that will undoubtedly impact your perspective of community and society.

Written by Lydia Long

Staff Writer for Socialworkhelper.com

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Advocacy Series; Advocacy for Beginners

We live in a democracy, and it takes a certain amount of citizen participation to make any democracy work.  However many people do not hear about issues until after the decision is made. Laws become passed and then affect lives before many people notice. Staying active on policy issues may be a chore for many, however we live in a society and decisions are made by those that speak up. There are many ways to stay current on issues in your area. You can register to the newsletters of those that represent you, find bills on the NCGA website, or “call to action” sites like Progress NC.

 

  While calls to action are crucial, direct contact to your legislators are more important. Be strategic and contact your legislators when they are not in session, they will have more time to talk to you.. There are three main reasons or strategies to contact your legislators.

  • To build the relationship
  • Provide them with information
  • Ask for action

      Politicians are less likely to listen to your call for action if they have never heard from you before, or if people only respond for a call to action like on a lobby day. Lobby days are a great way to get the message out that a lot of people feel strongly about something. However it can be overwhelming for legislators and if you want them to have a personal response to your issue, it might be more effective to communicate with them when they are not so busy.

      Take time to set up a meeting when they are not in the General Assembly, and in their home district. Schedule a meeting and introduce yourself, let them know you are a constituent, provide them with information that you know about. Developing a personal relationship is then most effective way to influence the legislators’ positions on an issue. Phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters are all great but are not as effective as face-to-face meeting.  They are not experts and many times are so removed from the lives of “everyday people”, that they welcome any perspective or feedback.

Some things to remember…

  • Ask for your legislators’ view on an issue. Be kind and don’t react angrily if you don’t get the response you want. Stay calm and be polite always.

  • Use the specific bill or legislative action. Give several brief points why your member should support this legislation.

  • Research your issue and get back to them if you cannot provide information about an issue on the spot.

  • Remember to say thank you; and send a thank you note after your visit. This letter helps build a relationship over time with the legislator or the staff person.

Whatever your preferred method, communication is key for having the society that we want.

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Next in the series Tactics and Strategy in Advocacy.

Written by Lydia Long

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North Carolina, Backward in Values

What happened to the progressive state we once knew here in North Carolina?  This state of ours, which was once on its way to becoming progressive, has turned completely bizarre in its direction.  There is a plethora of policies in our current legislature that discriminates against many of our vulnerable populations: Here is just a few of them;

This has flourished many advocacy efforts throughout the state. With lobby days already scattered out at the Capital such as, Women’s Advocacy Day , Equality NC Lobby Day and Momsrising Chutes and Latters event, there are many more rallies and citizens advocating all about of the madness that is going on at the legislature this session.


 

These policies are going backward in time for our state. Our laws should protect our freedoms and stop discrimination. If you don’t agree with these policies please contact who represents you.

Written by Lydia Long

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EJ is homeless in Hollywood. He is 18, and  has been homeless for 11 years.

A society without homelessness is possible. It is only a matter of looking deeply at our values, and priorities.  And deciding what we will or will not stand for in our society. 

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Discrimination in North Carolina, Once Again

    Discrimination is reeking its ugly head in North Carolina again. A topic of much debate in the state recently that could make it difficult for approximately 600,000 eligible voters to participate in our democracy and vote. Currently, thirty states have implemented discriminatory voter ID laws that prevent citizens from voting, and even more states are considering to do the same. This includes a staggering 20 million or more  Americans that do not have government-issued photo ID. How this is discriminating?  Because a disproportionate number of these Americans include the low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, disabled and the elderly. 

    Current legislation, Voter Protection Integrity/Every Vote Counts SB 235/HB 253, is in place to protect voters and is supported by the National Association of Social Workers, which is to ensure that all legally registered voters who go to the polls has the right to vote and cannot be denied this right because of these discriminatory photo ID requirements. Unfortunately this bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

  Most of the GOP is in support of voter ID requirements, calming that it protects against voter fraud however, not all members of the General Assembly see eye to eye in this matter. State Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr., a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, stated in an article from the Washington Post: “The ID requirement would discourage students, the poor, older adults and minorities from voting because they are more likely to not have an ID card.  We cannot afford to disenfranchise more than 600,000 voters for not having proper identification. Voting is more than just a privilege, it is a constitutional right.” And voices from the community came out in uproar where citizens from all over the state, including 91 year old Rosanell Eaton, who came to speak out at the public hearing on March 12th in opposition to the implementation of the voter ID.

    This law is a form of discrimination and oppression which would have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations in our society. This includes low-income citizens, minority voters, students, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others who do not have a government-issued ID.  Our laws should protect our rights, inhibit them. They should help more people have the access to vote, not restrict the ability of the underprivileged even more.

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Contact your legislators and tell them you support Voter Protection Integrity/Every Vote Counts,SB 235/HB 253. We do not want to write in discrimination in our laws!

 

Writer Lydia Long

http://www.democracy-nc.org/wp-content/themes/DemNCv1/images/slide-voter-id.png

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Come Out Of The Shadows

 

Plato’s famous allegory of the cave is supposed to show us the difference between knowledge and mere opinion. We are asked to imagine some people sitting in a deep cave, where the light of the sun does not reach. They are chained in such a way that they cannot turn their heads, and can only see a wall- the far end of the cave.

Behind them a fire burns, and between them and the fire is a low wall and a path along which other people are moving, carring statues or carvings of animals. The chained prisoners can see only shadows flickering on the wall in front of them, and they think these shadows are the only reality. Even if one of them could free himself and leave the cave, he would be so confused by the sight of things of which previously he had seen only shadows, that at first he would take those shadows to be more real than the reality now before him; if he were to step out into the sun, he would be blinded by its light, and it would be a long time before he was able to see the sun itself. And if he were to then to go back down into the cave, his fellow prisoners would make fun of him and ridicule what he said. 

The allegory of the cave is about us—prisoners of the world of appearances, still shackled by our chains. The material world is our cave. The things which we perceive as real are actually just shadows on a wall.

Like the social structure from which we live, we are controlled by covert and overt influences. Beliefs and ideas control policy, and attempt to drive what is considered “right” and “wrong”.  Misconceptions become law, and if we remain silent and obedient than our chains will remain.  In order to come out of the shadows of these social constructs we must challenge and question the status quo and we must not remain silent on our fight for justice.

 

"Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, kept inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind."
Morpheus

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Written by Lydia Long

Staff writer for Socialworkhelper.com